Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sea Tow

There have been many articles written this week about the fate of the sailing vessel Aegean. The Hunter 376 from Redondo Beach was taking part in the Newport to Ensenada race last weekend. The boat was found in pieces on Saturday, April 28th and all aboard perished.  Three of the bodies were recovered but the skipper was never found.

This is a horrible tale for what should have been a fun weekend race. There have been alot of theories as to what happened.  Some think that the boat may have been run down by a larger ship but there is no evidence to support that.  The boat was fitted with a Spot locating device which was broadcasting the boat position up to 1:30 am on Saturday morning. The location reports showed that the boat was moving at a constant speed and course right into the rocky bluffs of North Coronado Island. Debris from the boat was scattered over a wide area near the island.

A senseless accident like this makes us all think about what could have been done to prevent this from happening.  It is a time for us to take inventory of the safety equipment we have on board our own boats and review our watch procedures.

Application: iPhone, iPod Touch
Function: Marine information and services
Cost: Free

This app is one that can help any lake or coastal boater out of a jam. Sea Tow and their yellow boats have been around since 1983. They have franchises in over 100 locations around the United States coastal waters.  They offer non emergency services to boaters of all kinds through a yearly subscription service. A fee of $169 gets you a Gold membership which will cover all your boats. A fee of $119 will get you covered on lakes where service is available.

Sea Tow has created a handy little app to give you some basic weather and navigation features and will hopefully keep you out of trouble.  The app is available for the iPhone and iPod touch in iOS. An Android version is also available. If you do need their services the bright yellow boats are standing by 24 hours a day to assist you on the water.

The app offers more than just a way to contact Sea Tow. I reviewed the BoatUS app earlier and found it pretty sparse in features.  The Sea Tow app has went alot further providing Tide information, Weather forecasts, navigation features and emergency contact capability.

  • Tide Forecast for 7 days
  • Follow Me feature to display nearest tide stations
  • 10 day Weather forecasts powered by Weather Underground
  • Stores multiple weather locations
  • Real time weather, wind speed, gusts, temperature and pressure
  • Weather alerts
  • Weather radar
  • GPS, Google map position and compass
  • Latitude and longitude
  • Course (COG) and speed (SOG) in MPH and Knots
  • Daytime and nigh time screen views
The main splash screen shows a menu of features provided by the app. If you are in need of assistance the bottom button can be accessed to call Sea Tow. If you do not have cell service you can try to contact Sea Tow on VHF channel 16.


The Tides selection brings you to a screen that shows the tide stations in your area. Select one of these or find a site using the search window to view current tides and forecasts up to 7 days in advance.  The time until the next high or low tide is displayed along with the date and time. If the screen orientation is changed from vertical to horizontal a graph of the tide for the day is also displayed.

The Follow Me feature can be set in setting with the Gear icon in the top right of the screen. This will display pertinent tide stations as you move to new locations. The tide readings can be displayed in feet and meters.

Lunar information on the moon phase is displayed along with rise and set times.  

Weather is provide for your current location or any location you may want to search for. Previous search results are saved and can be paged to by swiping up and down. Forecasts up to 10 days can be displayed by swiping right and left. 

A variety of real time information is displayed including wind speed, direction, gust, visibility, pressure and temperature.

Weather radar can be accessed by tapping the radar icon in the upper right side of the top yellow region. Tap the icon again to return to the real time weather page.

The basic navigation features are displayed on the next screens. Latitude and longitude are shown at the bottom.  A speedometer like reading shows the speed your vessel is moving along with a Course over Ground display. Settings can be adjusted to show MPH or Knots.

Simply tap the compass display to bring it to the foreground to show true heading. Tap the speed display to bring it back to the foreground.

A Google map of your position can be displayed by tapping the globe icon in the lower right.

I was impressed with the app and some of the basic navigation features it has compared to others I have reviewed.

The display can also be dimmed for night vision by selecting the slide icon in the lower left of the screen.

The last selection brings up the Sea Tow contact page. Here you have the option to Visit the website, Call Sea Tow or Join.

Sea Tow has put together a great little app that all boater should have.  Even if you don't sign up for the Sea Tow service, the app provides valuable tidal, navigation and weather information that all boater would find useful. 

Remember that you will need cell service to make Tides, and the Weather information features of the app work. The navigation features appear to use the devices locational services so they do work with or without a cell connection.

If your are a coastal cruiser it should be a great addition to your Marine app collection.  Check to see if the Sea Tow service is available in your area before signing up.  

Be safe out there boaters!

~~~Sail On~~~

1 comment:

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